Naval Academy Adds Cadence Push-Ups, Planks to Fitness Test

Navy push-up
Cadence push-ups and planks will be required when prospective Navy and Marine Corps officers take their biannual fitness test. (U.S. Navy photo)

Midshipmen will be hit with two big changes on this week's Physical Readiness Test as the Naval Academy adopts new exercises leaders say better measure future officers' fitness levels.

Cadence push-ups and planks will be required when prospective Navy and Marine Corps officers take their biannual fitness test on Saturday. Midshipmen have been testing the new exercises in physical training courses and other venues for about a year, and members of the academy's class of 2023 took the fall PRT using cadence push-ups and planks.

In November, the Naval Academy announced in an official instruction from the athletic director that the exercises would officially be added to the PRT.

Now, instead of cranking out as many push-ups as possible during the test, midshipmen will perform the exercise "in time with a two-second cadence," a statement about the changes provided to says.

"This allows for a maximum of 60 push-ups and provides a more accurate picture of a midshipman's leading edge of physical education in the Navy," it adds. "The cadence is included to ensure that all participants perform to the same standards."

The academy is also adopting the plank in place of the crunches, ahead of Navy plans to make the same change. Midshipmen will be required to hold a front-plank exercise for as long as possible during Saturday's test. That exercise replaces curl-ups, or sit-ups, which officials said can cause injury if done repeatedly.

Navy leaders announced in May that sit-ups would no longer be used on the Physical Readiness Test. The service is currently studying how that event will be scored on the revised test, which is expected to be adopted this year.

Related: Navy's Fitness Test Overhaul Enters Next Phase

Cmdr. Joseph "Jody" Smotherman, deputy director of physical education at the Naval Academy, said in a statement that the school wants midshipmen to be "the leading edge of physical education in the Navy."

"At the Naval Academy, as initial entry training, the PRT is an internal process, so we can make these changes before the rest of the fleet," he said.

It's not immediately clear whether the Navy will follow the academy's switch to cadence push-ups.

Lt. Cmdr. Martin Wright, human performance lab director at the Naval Academy, said the exercise done with a cadence has "been shown to be a more valid test for upper body muscular endurance."

"Through numerous trials with various participants, we found that the cadence greatly improved form and standardized a more complete movement through the full range of motion," he said in a statement.

Men must complete 60 cadence push-ups to get the full 100 points on that event. Women need 45 or more to earn full marks.

The lowest passing score midshipmen can earn on that event is 60 points, which men will get if they complete 35 cadence push-ups and women if they do 20.

Scores for planks are the same for male and female midshipmen. To earn the full 100 points on the event, they must hold the move for four minutes and 20 seconds. The lowest passing score they can earn is 60 points if they hold a plank for one minute and 45 seconds.

Shoes will be used during both the cadence push-ups and plank portions of the test.

During cadence push-ups, the midshipman's test partner will remove their right shoe and place it instep-down with toes facing toward their partner's nose "directly between the participant's hands, in parallel with the participant's body."

During the plank, the shoe is placed underneath the midshipman's knees, perpendicular to their body, according to the test instructions.

The shoe is meant to "facilitate a more objective test and make sure the exercises are being done properly." Midshipmen should lower their body until their chest touches the shoe during the push-up portion of the test. During the plank, the midshipman's body can't touch the shoe.

Midshipmen also must complete a 1.5-mile run as part of the Naval Academy's Physical Readiness Test.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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